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PM’s State Visit: Dhaka, Delhi eye signing dozen of instruments; new initiatives to strengthen cooperation

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Bangladesh and India are likely to sign over a dozen of bilateral instruments with some new initiatives by identifying new areas of cooperation during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s state visit to India on 21-22 June, officials have said.

The two-day state visit is taking place at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that might carry some directives giving a picture of greater cooperation between the two countries in the future, they said.

This will be the first full-fledged bilateral visit by any head of government to India after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed its government for the third consecutive term.

This will be Hasina’s second trip to the Indian capital in less than 15 days. She was among the dignitaries invited to Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on 9 June.

Though it is unlikely to see any breakthrough on Teesta water sharing deal specifically at this moment, the issue will come up for discussion in addition to a likely discussion on broader Teesta and relevant projects on development and management, a senior official told UNB on Tuesday.

Earlier on 9 May, India reportedly expressed interest to finance Bangladesh’s Teesta project which is known as “Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project”.

“You know, we have taken a big project on Teesta. India wants to finance this project. It will have to be implemented in line with our needs. We want to see our needs fulfilled,” Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud told reporters after his meeting with Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 9 May.

The renewal of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty will also come up for discussion, officials said.

Earlier in 2022, the two leaders welcomed the formation of a Joint Technical Committee to conduct a study for optimum utilisation of water received by Bangladesh under the provisions of Ganges Water Sharing Treaty.

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen recently said the two countries are scheduled to sign a number of MoUs and agreements and there is an issue of making some announcements on some areas of cooperation.

“There will be continuity of the relations, and we expect to see some new initiatives in our relations,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a reception recently.

Former State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam said they would take the Bangladesh-India relations to a new height in the next five years as there are new governments in place in the two neighbouring countries with continuity amid new mandate.

“There will be a stock-taking on what we left in September 2022 and we will take the relations to a new height in the next five years,” he said on Friday, noting that the expectations and aspirations are sky-high.

Recalling earlier discussions, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during her state visit to India in September 2022, reiterated Bangladesh’s long pending request for concluding the interim agreement on the sharing of the waters of the Teesta River, the draft of which was finalised in 2011.

Referring to Land Boundary Agreement – LBA – and resolving maritime dispute with India, Shahriar said the countries would gradually be able to resolve the unresolved issues as complex issues had been resolved.

He said there was a 33-point joint statement issued during the state visit of prime minister of Bangladesh to India in September 2022 where issues like Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), energy cooperation, people to people contacts, broader connectivity and others were mentioned.

Shahriar said the upcoming visit of the prime minister will help advance the relations on those areas.

He hoped that the next meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) will be held soon, noting that the 38th meeting of the JRC was held in New Delhi in August, 2022 wherein various matters pertaining to cooperation in water resources sector were discussed.

Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) has been functioning since 1972. It was established with a view to maintain liaison in order to ensure the most effective joint effort in maximising the benefits from common river systems. The JRC is headed by water resources ministers of both the countries.

Sources in the Foreign Ministry indicate that key issues on the agenda include cross-border connectivity initiatives, Indian investments in the Teesta special economic zone, management of Mongla port, and power trade.

Additionally, discussions on a potential trade pact are expected.

Over the past decade, numerous cross-border initiatives have been launched as part of a robust regional partnership plan.

The Modi-Hasina summit on 22 June might also focus on enhancing the defence partnership between the two nations.

This visit marks Sheikh Hasina’s third trip to New Delhi since September 2023, underscoring the strengthening ties between India and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh says India is a friendly country and Bangladesh does not compare the Dhaka-Delhi relations with anyone else. “India stood beside us during the War of Liberation in 1971. Our relationship with India is multifaceted. We share borders with India. We are supportive of each other,” Hasan Mahmud said.

PM’s engagements in New Delhi

A flight from Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying PMHasina and her entourage will depart Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Friday at about 2pm, according to the sources in the Foreign Ministry.

The flight will land at Palam Airport, New Delhi at about 4pm (Delhi time) where high-level dignitary of India and Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Md Mustafizur Rahman will welcome her.

In the evening, Minister of External Affairs of India S Jaishankar will call on her at the Meeting Room of her Place of Residence, Hotel Taj Palace.

On Saturday morning, a red carpet will be rolled out at Rashtrapati Bhavan to receive Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by her Indian counterpart through a ceremonial reception where the National Anthems of Bangladesh and India will be played. She will also inspect the Guard of Honour.

After that, she will go to Raj Ghat to pay tribute to the father of the Indian Nation Mahatma Gandhi by placing a wreath at his Samadhi. She will also sign the visitor’s book there.

Later on the same day, Sheikh Hasina will go to Hyderabad House to hold a tete-a-tete with Prime Minister Narendra Modi followed by delegation- level talks.

Both will witness the signing ceremony of the MoU and agreements.

After that, both the prime ministers will give their press statements. Then they will attend a Banquet Luncheon hosted by the Prime Minister of India in honour of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh at Hyderabad House.

In the afternoon, Hasina will call on the Vice President of India Jagdeep Dhankhar at his Secretariat.

In the evening Sheikh Hasina will call on the President of India Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

At 6 pm (Delhi time), the prime minister will depart from Palam Airport, New Delhi by a flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines and will land in Dhaka at about 9pm.

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UK inflation holds at 2% in June: official data

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Britain’s inflation rate held steady in June after returning to the Bank of England’s target the previous month, official data showed Wednesday, confounding expectations for another modest slowdown.

The Consumer Prices Index was unchanged at 2.0 percent in June from the same level in May, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement, compared with market forecasts of 1.9 percent.

“Hotel prices rose strongly, while second-hand car costs fell but by less than this time last year,” said ONS chief executive Grant Fitzner.
“However, these were offset by falling clothing prices, with widespread sales driving down their cost.

“Meanwhile, the cost of both raw materials and goods leaving factories fell on the month, though factory gate prices remain above where they were a year ago.”

Analysts said the data could cause the Bank of England to sit tight for a while longer before starting to cut interest rates.

“The chances of an interest rate cut in August have diminished a bit more,” said Paul Dales, chief UK economist at research consultancy Capital Economics.

Last month, the BoE kept its key interest rate at a 16-year high of 5.25 percent, despite slowing inflation in May.

Britain’s newly elected Labour government welcomed news that inflation remained at the BoE’s target level.

“It is welcome that inflation is at target,” said Darren Jones, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in a statement.

“But we know that for families across Britain prices remain high… (which) is why this government is taking the tough decisions now to fix the foundations” of the UK economy, he said.

Labour, led by new Prime Minister Keir Starmer, has pledged immediate action to grow the economy after the centre-left party won a landslide general election victory to end 14 years of Conservative rule.

Later on Wednesday, King Charles III will read out Labour’s first programme for government in a decade and a half, when the UK parliament formally reopens following the July 4 election.
Elevated interest rates have worsened a UK cost-of-living squeeze because they increase borrowing repayments, thereby cutting disposable incomes and crimping economic activity.

The BoE began a series of rate hikes in late 2021 to combat inflation, which rose after countries emerged from Covid lockdowns and accelerated after the invasion of Ukraine by key oil and gas producer Russia.

 

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China’s economy grew less than expected in second quarter: official data

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China’s economy grew 4.7 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2024, official data showed Monday, less than analysts had expected.

“By quarter, the GDP for the first quarter increased by 5.3 percent year on year and for the second quarter 4.7 percent,” Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in a statement.

The figures were much lower than the 5.1 percent predicted by analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Retail sales — a key gauge of consumption — also slowed to just two percent in June, the NBS said, down from 3.7 percent in May.

The world’s second-largest economy is grappling with a real estate debt crisis, weakening consumption, an ageing population and trade tensions with Western rivals.

Top officials are meeting in Beijing on Monday for a key plenum, with all eyes on how they might kickstart lacklustre growth.

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Concerns Mount Over Revenue Loss as South Asia’s Largest Land Port Curtails Operations

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Bangladeshi officials are grappling with fears of revenue loss as the largest land port in South Asia, situated along the India-Bangladesh border, has ceased operations for 10 hours each day since July 11.

The Petrapole Land Port in India, crucial for trade between the two nations, has been shutting down from 6 PM to 8 AM daily, without providing any explanation for the closure, according to officials from the Benapole Land Authority in Bangladesh. This unexpected halt has left Bangladeshi authorities and traders in a state of uncertainty, as there is no indication of when the operations might resume to normalcy.

Industry insiders warn that this disruption could lead to a significant revenue shortfall at Benapole port due to decreased imports, adversely affecting Bangladeshi importers with delayed product deliveries.

Rezaul Karim, Director of Traffic at Benapole Land Port Authority, emphasized that while Benapole has been maintaining 24-hour operations, Petrapole’s recent restrictions are hindering cargo truck movements after evening.

“We have inquired with the Petrapole port authority about the reasons for halting trade services after evening. They responded that the matter is under discussion with relevant authorities,” Karim said.

Sultan Mahmud Bipul, Secretary of Benapole C&F Agent Association International Checkpost Affairs, highlighted the fiscal implications of this disruption. “Benapole port has set a revenue target of Tk6,705 crore from imported goods for the fiscal year 2024-25. If the 24-hour import facility remains discontinued, it will severely impact our revenue targets,” he noted.

Ziaur Rahman, General Secretary of Benapole Landport Importers and Exporters Association, pointed out the severe impact on trade, particularly with perishable goods. “Traders dealing with perishable food products are incurring the biggest losses due to this halt. The inability of goods trucks to enter after evening will widen the trade deficit,” Rahman remarked.

As the situation unfolds, the Benapole Land Port Authority and associated trade bodies continue to seek clarity and resolution from their Indian counterparts to mitigate the economic repercussions of this operational disruption.

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